By Brandi Makuski
A man charged with the shooting death of a former UWSP student will be in court on Monday.
Kyle Engen, of Marshall, Wis., spent his 31st birthday behind bars after being arrested in Colorado and transported by U.S. Marshals back to Wisconsin. Engen eluded authorities for more than a month following the March 17 shooting of former UW-Stevens Point student Deonta Lezine, 21, during a drug deal gone bad near campus. Engen is the only suspect in Lezine’s death.
Engen had to first deal with probation revocation charges in Dane Co. before being formally charged with Lezine’s death. Charges against Engen were filed in Portage Co. on Sept. 1, according to District Attorney Louis Molepske.
Stevens Point police officers responded to a parking lot at the intersection of Fifth and Minnesota avenues after reports of gunshots were made at about 7:46 PM on St. Patrick’s Day. Numerous witnesses reported hearing several gunshots, followed by the sound of a vehicle speeding away with tires squealing.
While securing the scene, police found five spent .380 shell casings and two piles of shattered glass in the parking lot.
Around the same time, officers received word that a man, later identified at Lezine, had been found at Berg Gym on the UWSP campus with “suspicious injuries.” Based on the timing and proximity, an officer was dispatched to determine if the two calls were related.
When police arrived at Berg Gym, located inside the university’s Health Enhancement Center (HEC), EMT’s from the Stevens Point Fire Dept. were already on scene and treating Lezine, who was described by a supervising EMT as being “very bloody and covered in broken glass,” according to police documents.
Lezine would later be transported to Aspirus in Wausau, where he clung to life until March 25. Lezine’s cause of death is listed as respiratory depression due to cerebral trauma, caused by the gunshot.
According to witness interviews, Kyle Engen came to Stevens Point believing Deonte Lezine and his roommate, who lived on the 100 block of Minnesota Ave., intended to purchase two pounds of marijuana for a price of $7,200.
The roommate said he and Lezine planned to steal the drugs. Instead of paying Engen, the roommate said the plan was for Lezine, who had been a Golden Gloves boxer, to punch Engen in the jaw and render him unconscious. The trio would then take possession of the marijuana and remove Engen from the vehicle.
But the plan backfired. The roommate reported to police Lezine and Engen began to argue, then punch each other in the backseat. Lezine then pushed Engen out of the car and yelled, “Go, go, go!”
Engen fired several shots at the car as it drove away, according to the complaint, before he fled town for Madison.
Over the next month local law enforcement searched several residents in various cities across the state searching for clues as to Engen’s whereabouts. They were finally altered to his presence in Colorado, where he was arrested by U.S. Marshals.
Law enforcement also tracked down the suspected murder weapon, a .380 handgun, buried under five feet of dirt in Columbia County.
Engen is being held on a $100,000 cash bond. He faces up to 140 years behind bars if convicted.